Since I last made this soup and these roasted eggplants, I’ve been dreaming of other rich flavorful broths filled to the brim with earthy mushrooms and healthy toppings. I love good foods–especially those that are healthy, natural, and well-seasoned–but I don’t like forced difficulties that require too many steps in getting there.
Rhett has been telling me about his favorite Tom Yum Soup from Baton Rouge’s Taste of Asia (now closed) and in a desire to feed his nostalgia and my foodist yearnings, we returned to Vinh Phat for another round of cooking. Luckily, I had most of the ingredients for this soup in my pantry, but gladly shopped for essential shiitake mushrooms and bean sprouts.
Pictured: A pretty blue & white ceramic bowl purchased in the “kitchen” section of Vinh Phat. Look for place settings, tea pots, woks, and so much more amidst the stuffed shelves and foreign labels. (Not local? Try these here.)
At first I didn’t understand the pull of this soup besides its unavailability. Yet the Thai dish is really quite famous for a complex broth that translates well to people outside of Thailand. Filled with a combination of curries, chilies, coconut, and more, the soup is derived from the Thai words “Tom” and “Yum” meaning a “boiled spicy and sour soup.” I like things spicy and, at times, sour. I was game.
(Note: Yum doesn’t carry its English meaning, “yum!” at all. But the soup is quite yummy….)
What I like about this broth is that no one ingredient overpowers the others. Cooking in a cuisine that is, quite literally, foreign to you requires a quick and steady learning curve that knows when to cut, adapt, and refrain from substitutions. Because the base for Tom Yum Soup is primarily chicken broth, the coconut milk doesn’t overpower with its sugar and cream and the other spices–whether curry, red chilies, or various Asian sauces–blend harmoniously. It is this kind of fragrant balance one must learn when cooking outside their culture, and Tom Yum Soup offers a wonderful introduction to a more advanced representation of cooking with Asian palates.
And the soup is easy too. Simply bring the ingredients list below together in two separate boils for an addictive complex dish that’s just way too easy.
Tom Yum Soup
This recipe is an adaptation of a basic Tom Yum recipe–plenty of broth mixed with coconut milk, an assortment of Asian spices, and fresh herbs.
*5 cups chicken or vegetable broth (or stock)
*1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk, whole fat
*1 lime, juiced
*4 kaffir lime leaves, crushed gently
*2 pieces lemongrass
*1 (2-inch) piece galangal root, peeled and grated
*2 tablespoons fish sauce
*1 teaspoon garlic-chili sauce
*1 tablespoon sugar
*2 tablespoons ginger, freshly grated
*1 1/2 tablespoons green curry paste
*1 cup shiitake mushrooms, whole
*1 cup button mushrooms, sliced
*1/2 onion, sliced
*5 small dry japones chiles, ground (can substitute 2 tablespoons red pepper flakes)
*1 (8-ounce) can sliced bamboo shoots
*1 (13.5-ounce) can mini corn
*1/4 cup fresh basil
*1 pound fresh shrimp, peeled
*1 package soba noodles, cooked according to package instructions
*basil, cilantro, mint, bean sprouts, lime wedges, and green onions
1.) In an over-sized pot, add chicken broth, coconut milk, lime juice, kaffir leaves, lemongrass, galangal, fish sauce, garlic chili sauce, sugar, and ginger. Whisk to combine and warm over medium-high heat until it boils. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until broth is flavorful and infused.
2.) Whisk in green curry and add mushrooms, onion, chiles, bamboo, corn, and basil to broth. Simmer over low-medium heat for an additional 15 minutes and add shrimp 5 minutes before serving. Meanwhile, cook soba noodles according to package instructions and plate in the bottom of soup bowls.
3.) When ready to serve, remove lemongrass from pot and ladle soup over soba noodles. Serve with remaining mint to garnish and other additional suggested toppings (cilantro, mint, bean sprouts, lime wedges, and/or green onions). Makes 6 servings.
This recipe was re-published for my “Fresh Ideas” Column for Louisiana’s state newspaper, The Advocate, on Thursday, October 30th, 2012. You can read the reprint here.
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Written by: Helana Brigman